When I first moved to Phoenix, Arizona I was a single parent. I was short on funds, so I settled for a very modest ranch style house. It has three bedrooms and two baths. It also has desert landscaping in the front of the house. This consist of a Palo Verde tree, two Mexican Bird-of-Paradise bushes, some flowering Cacti, boulders and small pebbles all around where the grass ought to be. The backyard, on the other hand, had grass. The desert landscaping in the front of the house is done to conserve on water. After all, this is a desert.
I was always thinking of ways to save money, I still do. During our first summer in Arizona, I decided if I turned off the sprinklers in the backyard, I could conserve on water, save money, and the grass wouldn’t grow. If the grass didn’t grow, I wouldn’t have to mow it. Therefore, I would save time and money. Sounds smart, right? Well this concept of mine led to a series of events that I’d like to share with you.
I stopped watering the backyard and within a few days the grass dried up. If you ever lived or visited Phoenix you know things dry up fast around here, and it doesn’t have to be summer. Three weeks later, my backyard looked like the dust-bowl of the thirties.
The first event occurred when I went shopping and I left all the windows open in the back of the house. It was a clear calm day when I left. However, just before I returned, the weather changed and the wind had kicked up a dust storm. The inside of my house looked like the Sahara desert. I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was dirt and dust everywhere. It cost me the services of a carpet cleaner and several weeks of exhaustive cleaning before the house was livable again.
Shortly after that, my son became ill. At first, the doctor thought it was a cold, but when he didn’t respond to treatment, they took a series of tests and found out he was allergic to dust. So then I had doctor bills and medicine to pay for. All because of my wise decision.
Then came my daughter’s birthday party. I planned all year to have it in the backyard. After the invitations were sent out to twenty children, I recalled what I had done. I had forgotten about the grass, we didn’t have any! A chill went through my entire body just thinking of where I was going to put all those eight year olds. Then, after surveying the backyard and thinking it didn’t look too bad…I went ahead with my original plans.
I borrowed some long folding tables and decorated them with paper tablecloths. I purchased a Piñata and filled it with candies. We hung it from the only tree in the backyard. My largest investment was the chairs, I had to rent them. The backyard looked great. The fact that it was grassless wasn’t even a factor anymore.
The day of reckoning was upon me. Twenty children ran through the house. This is going to be a piece of cake, I thought. Everything went well until it was time to Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey game. We taped The Donkey to the wall, and all the children were playing nicely when I went into the house for more refreshments. I don’t think I was gone for more than a few minutes.
When I returned, the boys had my water hose in their hands and were spraying the girls. The girls then retaliated, by getting a second hose, and started spraying the boys. Within minutes my backyard was a pool of mud.
Everyone and everything was covered in brown goo. The Piñata hung from the tree like a wet sack. They had gone so far as to smear their names and slogans, in mud, on the wall and back of the house. It was so bad I didn’t recognize any of the children. I made a lunge for the boy with the water hose, but he slid out of my hands. So I grabbed the ring leader of the girls, and dragged her towards the gate. I told her she would have to go home. She was screaming and protesting. “What kind of a mother throws out her own daughter”. Was this my daughter? This child covered from head to toe in muck. What happened to her blond hair? They all looked like swamp creatures, how could I tell?
I thought what would their parents think? I was in trouble. So before the children went home that afternoon I made all twenty line up against the house and I washed them with the hose. They just loved it. As they left, one by one, I heard some remark, “they really know how to throw a cool party”.
It’s been almost five years now, and I still have neighbors who will not speak to me. My children tell me they refer to my backyard as “The Mud Hole”.